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I received an offer from Company A on Monday. I got an offer letter and agreed to a background check, but never signed anything stating I accepted (This is a US based company, and I live in an at-will state). I started their pre-employment background check and start at the beginning of next month.

Meanwhile, on Monday (same day as offer from Company A was given), I interviewed with Company B. I really think Company B is a better fit for me. They in all likelihood will extend an offer to me tomorrow (Thursday).

I feel very bad for reversing my decision to Company A and going with Company B. Is it very unprofessional to tell Company A no thank you, I found a better fit? I feel really slimy for doing it, but think Company B will be better in the long run. What do I say?

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    Have you actually got an offer from Company B yet? DO NOTHING until you have a definite offer, in writing, from them. Otherwise you could end up with no offers. – TrueDub May 18 '16 at 10:46
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    What does acceptance mean, actually? I got an offer letter and agreed to a background check, but never signed anything stating I accepted. This is a US based company. – Julian May 18 '16 at 11:56
  • Also, I live in an at-will state. – Julian May 18 '16 at 11:59
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Comes down to 1 thing: "Did you sign the employment contract for company A yet?

If you didn't then you have nothing to worry about, just tell them they can terminate their background check and thank them for your time. Then take company B up on their offer.

If you DID sign the contract for company A then this answer becomes off-topic because only you will know, by reading your contract, how you can get out of it. I can say with confidence that doing this will nuke the bridges you have built towards company A.

Note: Only execute the above once you have both offers, physically, in hand.

  • Hopefully someone can enlighten me on American employment law if a verbal agreement to a job is a binding contract or not. (I'm British) – Gunge May 18 '16 at 12:04
  • @JJosaur IAMAL There's a saying in America "A verbal agreement is worth the paper it's written on" You're never obligated to take a job on a verbal agreement, even a written agreement in a "right to work" state cannot be held against you. The exception being with an agency and ONLY if you sign an agreement that you won't quit before "X" days. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica May 18 '16 at 12:16
  • In regard to employment conctracts in the US, "A verbal agreement is orth the paper is written on" is typically true. However, in many cases, a verbal agreement is a valid contract if there is a meeting of the minds and both parties are giving up something (e.g. one party gives up money and the other gives up their time). Of course, IANAL, so none of this constitutes legal advice. – Laconic Droid May 18 '16 at 13:52
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If you don't have the papers signed and a start date, you owe company "A" nothing. As to if it's ethical, that's a bit more gray. ETHICALLY, if you have accepted the offer and take another, you are obligated to at least inform company "A" that another offer came in from a company you had been waiting to hear back from.

It's always good to be as above board as possible because your reputation will follow you.

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This is why I would not have accepted offer A till I did all my running interviews or would have cancelled the others if I got a Job.

You would be risking a Job for an empty promise. I would just stick to A.

Legally if you have signed an contract as mentioned by @JJosaur, you can always end this after the first term and say you don't fit in. This does mean that you have to inform B that you already have a Job and are stuck with it till date Y.

This is your decision, but don't ever do things that make you feel regret. You can learn from mistakes, but some you just should not make.

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It is very unusual in my experience for a company (at least not a small company) to begin the on-boarding procedures and schedule a start date without a signed offer letter. While this wouldn't be a contract, it is your official signal to them that you are committed to joining their organization and accepted the terms of their offer. But it wouldn't be out of the question they they took your verbal acceptance at that signal of commitment.

The fact that they gave you a start date and started a background check indicates to me that they think you have accepted, even if you don't think you accepted anything.

On the company's side, this likely means that they have informed the other potential candidates that they have filled the position, and the manager has begun whatever processes are needed to get your started (ordering equipment, getting accounts set up, etc).

Since there appears to be no real legally enforceable contract based on your description, you aren't committed to anything. You can walk away without fear of legal repercussions. However, you will likely burn your bridges with company A and it would be a surprise if they ever considered you for another position in the future.

Depending on the industry and what the competition is like, you would be surprised who you run into in the future, and who will remember your name. You may even encounter Company A as a client, or someone from Company A in a management role of another company you wish to work with.

So the decision should come down to two questions...

  1. "Is this job with Company B, both in the short term and in the long term, worth ruining my reputation with Company A"*.
  2. Will I ever need Company A in the future for a job, or a client".

If you can answer those questions, it should help you make your decision.

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